THE DISTRICT of Columbia ended 2013 with
— a number, swelled by the grim toll of the 12 people wantonly gunned down at the Washington Navy Yard by a lone shooter, that is up from 2012’s landmark low of 88 homicides. Thankfully, though, it is still a far cry from the horrendous old days when 12 people killed in a weekend on city streets was seen as so much business as usual.
Like much of the nation, the District is seeing a continuation of long-term reductions in violent crime. No doubt there are many factors, both economic and social, at play. Clearly, though, the District is on the right track with anti-crime efforts, as is neighboring Prince George’s County. In the District, that has meant smart use of data and new technologies to identify crime patterns and deploy personnel. Both street shootings and gang violence have seen dramatic reductions as a result.
Nonetheless, challenges still exist, and it is hard to celebrate any number that includes a newborn boy allegedly smothered by his mother, a college student killed in a street robbery, a pregnant woman who was a victim of domestic abuse and the too-numerous young black men who lost their lives in petty disputes.
“It’s still not a happy point for us,” acknowledged Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier in an interview with Homicide Watch D.C. “We still have a lot of work to do.” She singled out two areas for concern: deaths connected to bars or clubs and domestic-related killings. The seven deaths related to establishments with alcohol licenses, up from previous years, reflect more nightlife in a thriving city. New police deployments based on the changing nature of the city have been established, and Chief Lanier expressed confidence that they will make a difference.
Initiatives are needed to address the domestic violence that has, for two years in a row, claimed the lives of three young children. In addition to the baby boy who was smothered in October, two 4-year-olds were killed in 2013. One was beaten to death and the other died in a fire that allegedly was set on purpose. Chief Lanier rightly argued that police alone can’t deal with all the issues that affect troubled families, but her sounding the alarm should be a cue for improved interventions by public and private social agencies.